Saturday, September 18, 2021

Lebanon: Dewey, Truman and skewed research

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

The other day I came across this poll on Linkedin, the question was: Are you leaving Lebanon?
First chance I get... 44%
Already left! 34%
No, I am staying for now... 22%
Never! 0%
59 votes •
Poll closed

Interesting result. Now whereas I did not vote, my vote would have been "Never!"... Ah good patriot Tarek and his lofty country ideals. No, not really. Actually, not at all. Wait, what?
Precisely, if my answer is "Never!" it is because, born in 1974 I am past the age of moving to another country at this stage, I have my elderly mother to consider, I have a multitude of financial factors binding me to Lebanon and the list continues. Patriotism is not one of them.
But this precisely what infuriates me about research on social media. Not long ago I came across a "research" on instagram, the results were something like "72% wanted leadership change" while "81% would vote for NGO candidates in the next parliamentary elections". Now this baffled me. Why? Who is your sample audience, how were the questions asked, was there interviewer/interviewee bias, how were the answers constructed, was it open or closed ended question, and so on and so forth. When I tried to ask these questions to the person who posted the results, the only answer I got "these were my friends online". 
Friends online? Meaning Kale-salad eating, upper-middle class (before the financial crash), once-a-week mani/pedi (truth be told I had to research the meaning of that when I read it), ladies-who-brunch kind of friends? Ah so yes, that research is very reliable you know. It does express what the normal average Joe and average Jane think.
When obviously, it does not. And yet, here it was, the result was posted proudly online. 
I suppose you know the story of Dewey defeats Truman, if you do not I urge you to read it. It all started with the wrong sample. This reminds me of the debacle of the Beirut Madinati in the Beirut municipal elections in 2016 (please check here). Please do note, I think this might be global rather than Lebanon-specific, as a phenomenon but the fact that these researches are trying to portray Lebanese people and failing at it truly infuriates me.